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IU won’t reveal where student fees are going

POSTED AT 12:11 AM ON Mar. 11, 2011  (UPDATED AT 12:12 AM ON Mar. 11, 2011)

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IU policy doesn’t allow the release of full records detailing where mandatory student fees are being spent.

This includes the ledgers of the IU Student Association or any other student organization, so it is not clear if IUSA executives have given money to their own companies this year.

Last year, however, the Indiana Daily Student obtained a non-redacted 2009-10 IUSA ledger, which revealed that two companies owned by members of the executive branch received IUSA funds.

LiveArrive LLC, owned by then-Transportation Chief Ilya Rekhter, received $15,000 and Neil Kelty’s Thrive44 Strategy Group received two checks totaling more than $700.

The document was used in an impeachment petition against Kelty, IUSA’s chief of staff, that recently went before the IUSA Congress and the Supreme Court.

In October, when the IDS requested the ledger for the first time, Assistant Dean of Students Steve Veldkamp said, “All student government records are open to the public.”

But when the IDS requested the 2010-11 ledger last month, IUSA Treasurer Sierra Hsieh said she must work with IU Legal, which concluded that some parts of the documents couldn’t be disclosed due to restrictions in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

FERPA is a federal law that sets requirements and guidelines for releasing student records and information. If a university is found to have routinely violated FERPA, it could lose federal funding.

The full ledgers list recipients of money, how it’s distributed, its amount and when it’s mailed.

The 2010-11 ledger did not list which students were reimbursed, nor which companies received checks. IUSA budgets show what category of money is being spent, but not where the money ends up.

Beth Cate, IU’s associate general counsel, said IU can’t release records it believes could be used to identify a student.

According to the state’s Access to Public Records Act, documents like these should be open record, but the statute also states releases can’t violate federal law such as FERPA.

The IUSA documents not being released include some related to the GPS bus tracking debate, such as disclosures of conflict of interest or commitment.

This means any student organization, including IUSA, could be using money without disclosing the details to the public.

 

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